Friday, August 17, 2012

Our Family Vacation, the European loop

Brussels to Switzerland, Camping de Glaciers

Our family summer vacation began with much fervor. The recovery of Matt’s bike accident (he was hit by a car within the week of our departure) made for a subtle but interesting backdrop to the camping preparations for our “grand European loop”. We had planned to camp throughout and visit various places we’d not been to yet, around 9 different countries in Europe.

Let me begin with an apology. To all the Europeans who tolerated our boisterous, annoying, whining, disorganized, maddening family on vacation which included no less than 5 temper tantrums and multiple conversations with locals employing charade type hand gestures. Dear Europeans, your countries are quite lovely and we thank you for the hospitality, campground bread, and Alps- each of which are unforgettable. Thank you.

If our trip could have been charted like the NASDAQ there would be gradual rises with several peaks sloping to a low valley (in Vienna), and then reaching a gradual rise again. But did we have fun? Is Betty Ford a clinic? Is the Pope Catholic? Why of course, it was fun. And, at times, challenging, but yes, fun.

Day 1- Brussels to Switzerland, Camping de Glaciers. Estimated driving time 8 hours. Actual time 10 hours.

Quote of the day “ Arleigh, tent lines are not to eat….Please do not put the ropes in your mouth…Are you hungry? Please stop biting the tent ropes."

It’s never a good sign when the GPS tells you “turn around when possible” but you’re still sitting in your own driveway and haven’t even started the engine. That’s exactly how this family vacation began. At 6 am August 1st we set off on our grand European loop. I needed coffee the way Kid Rock needs help with an IQ test, but our coffee pot was left clean, along with the rest of the house.
We weren’t on the road 20 minutes before Arleigh asked to stop to pee and Stella commenced antagonizing the rest of our tour group. I toyed for a moment with the idea of grabbing her by the ears and drawing my knee into the small area between her ponytails, but this would only have led to further time delays and more noise. As we passed through Belgium, Luxembourg, and into France, I tried to think of circumstances less congenial than this, but aside from being in attendance at a Backstreet Boys concert, I could think of nothing. We continued our journey, occasionally at ear piercing volume levels, whilst bugs exploded colorfully against the windshield as we made our way though France and finally into Switzerland.

France was a bit of a speed bump on the time clock because we made numerous stops at roadside places searching for a breathalyzer test kit. Technically we were driving illegally because French rules of the road now dictate that each car must carry heir own breathalyzer test. Rather silly that we were stopping at each rest area to ask if we might purchase an alcohol test kit when we’d only drunk OJ and water but we were trying to be good citizens, to oblige the rules. One shop in particular in Alsace seemed to be equipped with everything- to handle Ebola virus to bomb disarmament and anything in between. However, after gesticulation and very very very poor French communication, (seriously, we asked for a breathalyzer test kit and might as well have had the lady slap a dead toad on the counter.) it was deemed that we’d needed to find a pharmacy to make this breathalyzer purchase so we abandoned mission and set out on the road illegally.

Continuing into the 9th hour on the road, it was determined that our children find the words “fart”, “bugger”, “poopy” and “butt” (and consequentially Ausfart - “exit“) giggly amusing to the point of absurdity. Nevertheless, our tolerance was rewarded upon arrival at Camping de Glaciers- an amazing little place tucked between the mountains of the Alps in Switzerland where the air is as refreshing as the mountain views.

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